Nearly 9 million people call London home, and it’s a city where the eclectic mix of nationalities, cultures and cuisines blend together in an urban undercurrent that seamlessly flows through two thousand years of history and tradition.
Musician Tinie Tempah is a true Londoner, a record-breaking renaissance man whose blend of grime (an urban underground type of music) and pop music has made him the most successful British rap artist in U.K. chart history and the first to reach platinum sales status with his U.S. debut single “Written in the Stars” in 2010.
This trailblazer showed CNBC anchor Tania Bryer his London, taking in the views near to the Royal Park in Greenwich, his studio nearby, his favorite restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, and afternoon tea at Claridge’s, one of the city’s most famous hotels.
The U.K.’s GDP per capita is $39,899 according to World Bank data.
Tinie Tempah is born on November 7 in southeast London.
Signs his first record deal with Parlophone over afternoon tea at Claridge’s Hotel.
Releases debut single “Pass Out,” which reaches number 1 in the U.K., followed by “Frisky” which charts at number 2, and “Written in the Stars” which gets to number 1.
Wins his first Brit Awards for Best British Breakthrough Act and Best British Single for “Pass Out,” and an Ivor Novello Award for the same song.
Performs at the closing ceremony of London’s Olympic Games.
Releases second album, Demonstration, which enters U.K. charts at number 3.
The single “Lover not a Fighter” is released, featuring U.K. rapper Labrinth.
“Not Letting Go” becomes Tempah’s sixth number 1 U.K. single.
Tempah launches menswear label What We Wear and the album “Youth” is released.
Tempah has had more number one singles in the U.K. than anyone else this decade, and has won awards from the Brits to the MOBOs as well as a prestigious Ivor Novello prize for his first U.K. single “Pass Out” back in 2011. He’s collaborated with the likes of DJ Calvin Harris and singer-songwriters Ellie Goulding and Jake Bugg.
His talents aren’t just restricted to music: He’s an entrepreneur who co-founded Disturbing London, an entertainment company that styles itself as a cultural consultancy. He also runs menswear label What We Wear, which launched at London Fashion Week Men’s in January 2017, with “athleisure” pieces priced from £65 to £400 ($84 to $515).
He’s always called the U.K.’s capital home, being born and raised in southeast London.
Afternoon tea at Claridge’s Hotel starts at £60 ($77), while an upscale hotel room is around £200 a night ($258).
Iknow the mayor, I know the nitties,” Tempah raps on his single “Not for the Radio,” the “nitties” being a colloquial term for drug addicts. London is a city of hope for the rap artist, who rose to fame from humble beginnings on one of Europe’s largest housing projects.
“I was born in a council estate, on benefits. And obviously I thank God more importantly, but I was able to go from there to Kensington palace or Buckingham palace, or to meet the mayor or to meet the prince, the future king,” he told CNBC’s “Trailblazers.”
Born Patrick Okogwu in 1988, the son of Nigerian immigrants, he and his three siblings would play among the concrete of the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, southeast London. It’s the place where then Prime Minister Tony Blair chose to give his inaugural speech in 1997, at a time when the U.K. was becoming “Cool Britannia” under Blair’s Labour government. On visiting, Blair stated: “Just as there are no no-go areas for today's Labour party, so I want there to be no ‘no-hope’ areas.”
U.S. and E.U. citizens do not need a visa to visit the U.K. for tourism purposes, and can stay up to six months. There is more information on the gov.uk website.
Looking at the world as a place of ambition helped Tempah rise to fame. “I think it's very very important to see the glass as half full and look at the world as an optimistic place,” he said. He also credits his parents for his success. “There’s just this mentality … that they had … We have to work super hard for everything that we can and we shouldn't moan about it, and that's just the way it should be.” Tempah’s cousin Dumi Oburota is his manager, while sister Kelly Okogwu looks after his day-to-day affairs, and he says “keeping it very close and tight” has helped him get where he is today.
Tempah’s latest U.K. single “Find Me,” shows him visiting his childhood home and looking out over the London skyline.
“I'm looking at this thing and I'm like wow, like I got from here, to this place,” he told “Trailblazers”.
“And I guess the other amazing thing about London is that you can have a massive block like mine but opposite have a beautiful row of terrace houses that are a million-plus pounds. And again, I don't really know that many other cities like that.”
“In London, you can literally live in a council estate and opposite you could be in front of a 1, 2, 3 (or) 4 million (pound) house, you could see their lifestyle, see their family and for me if that isn't hope, then I don't really know what is.” The estate where Tempah was raised is now the subject of a regeneration project with 4,000 new homes set to be built.
Tempah added that for him, London is a melting pot of cultures. “London is a very diverse, very cosmopolitan, very liberal, very welcoming, very accepting place.”
Greenwich is known for its observatory and for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on which time around the world is based. It also has a large park, which is a great vantage point to see the London skyline, and Tempah used to hang out at a secret spot nearby.
“I used to come here when I was 16, 17-years-old. I first came here on a date. A girl took me here on a cheap date and I fell in love with the place,” he told “Trailblazers.”
“If you look carefully, you can see the DLRs (Docklands Light Railway trains) and the trains running throughout London and so it almost made London look like a big jigsaw puzzle … put it in more of a context.”
“This is the first real time I ever got to see London from this point of view. And I guess it just changes it, apart from on the TV obviously or in a film. But it just changes it for you because it's almost like this is all here to be explored.”
London has an unpredictable climate, so travel prepared for rain even in summer. Christmas and New Year are popular times to visit, when the city comes alive with lights, decorations and festive markets.
Views from Greenwich
As well as hosting great views of London, the top of Greenwich Park is also home to a statue of General James Wolfe, who died fighting the French in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec in 1759. Wolfe spent part of his childhood in Greenwich and is buried in St Alfege’s church. His statue overlooks the Royal Naval College and from it visitors can see much of London, including financial district Canary Wharf, music venue the O2 (another place close to Tempah’s heart) and the Shard, London’s tallest building.
Greenwich is also home to Tempah’s recording studio and his latest album “Youth” is a love letter to the city.
“I just started to think about London, I started to think about the fact I was British, and I guess the power that British music has in the world at the moment, how much it resonates.”
“And I just thought it would be good to dedicate a lot of this album to London. And when I say London, it is a love letter to the city but it’s also a love letter to the people within it. It's a love letter to the people that I dated, it's a love letter to the people I argued with.”
“It's a love letter to the shopkeepers who when I tried to nick something and I was three-years-old slapped me and told me they were going to tell my mum. It's a love letter to all of those people, the whole community of London.”
Just across the River Thames from Greenwich is London's East End, an area synonymous with underground urban culture. It's where the grime music scene that influenced Tempah was born and it's the area that housed the latest fashion show for his What We Wear clothing brand.
The show for his latest collection, titled “Bring Your Game,” was held on a purpose built basketball court to help highlight the brand's sports-chic aesthetic.
London is five hours ahead of EDT.
“I just wanted to make something that was very minimal, easy to wear, that you could wear formally or in a relaxed way for the modern man, and more importantly the modern British man for 2017 and beyond,” said Tempah.
The plan is to work with a variety of new designers and bigger brands and Tempah wants the line to be as big as Burberry in years to come.
“Ultimately I do want to create a British brand that becomes a heritage brand eventually and that lives way beyond, whether it takes five years or 10 years or 20 years, that for me is my goal and ambition to collaborate and to be relevant culturally.”
London’s East End
The East End of London was known for its Cockneys, people who speak with a particular working class accent and traditionally had to be born within the sound of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow church. Now more multi-cultural, it is famous for its creative scene and parts of it have become highly desirable in the real estate market. It is also home to traditional music halls, such as Wilton’s in Tower Hamlets, which has been recently restored. It’s also home to Tempah, who lives near the area’s Victoria Park, in a house once owned by the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen.
“As a 14-year-old … I just wanted to explore (London). Some people … don't really like to go too far from where they're from but I just had that curiosity about London and I wanted to know what was in all of the buildings and what was going on, on all of these streets as well.” Here are some of Tempah’s favorite London discoveries.
Southeast London music venue The O2 is the landmark that reminds Tempah of home when he flies back into the city. He visited it as a high school student around the year 2000 when it was an exhibition hall known as the Millennium Dome.
“I'm from south London and so whenever I fly over and I see it, it makes me think of home, that's near my house. Maybe it's because I played that venue twice, sold it out twice,” he said.
London is a city synonymous with art and culture and nowhere embodies the city's infatuation with art more than the Tate Modern. Formerly the Bankside Power Station, which was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, it is now one of the world's largest museums for modern and contemporary art. Tempah is a fan, having first visited the gallery as a child.
French restaurant Clos Maggiore is situated in one of London's most visited tourist spots, Covent Garden. Around 400 years ago, the area was the vegetable garden of the monks of Westminster Abbey, and its original name was “Convent Garden.” Tempah loves Clos Maggiore for its fine food, unstuffy atmosphere and romantic interior, including a conservatory with a fully retractable roof.
Claridge’s Hotel is in the heart of Mayfair, one of London’s most exclusive areas. Dating back to 1812, it has long been a favorite of the world’s rich and famous, including royalty. It has a special place in Tempah’s heart being the place where he signed his first record deal in 2009 over the hotel’s famous afternoon tea.
“It was a life-changing moment definitely because what went on to happen after that was the release of 'Pass out', 'Written in the Stars' and all these records that ended up basically changing my life and I guess putting me on the map. I guess it's nice to know that we did it in Claridge’s just over some tea really.”
Writer: Lucy Handley
Design and code: Bryn Bache
Editor: Matt Clinch
Presenter and Executive Producer, Trailblazers: Tania Bryer
Executive Producer, Trailblazers: Martin Conroy
Associate Producer, Trailblazers: Michelle Blackwell
Images: CNBC and Getty Images